Category Archives: Meet Preview

US Classic Preview – Juniors

We’re less than a week away from the end of our long national nightmare. The GK US Classic has finally appeared on the horizon and is slowly chugging its way toward us to usher a glorious month of nonstop meets (real, actual meets with rules and standards!) back into our lives. And none too soon.

So let’s begin Celebration Week with a preview of the hors d’oeuvres. I mean junior session.

The highlight of any domestic junior competition is, of course, the wildly different heights and skill levels that populate the field. There’s nothing more entertaining than when Amelia Hundley is still somehow a junior in 2013 despite being age 37, and she’s introduced next to an actual 3-year-old who’s like, “I have a kip!” And they’re just in the same meet for some reason, and you go, “Is this a dream?” Yeah. Junior Classic.

This year, none of the juniors are being promoted to compete with the seniors (last year Malabuyo, O’Keefe, Dunne, Lee, and Kenlin competed in the later session with the big girls). I prefer this way. We have age group delineations in place, so let’s follow those rules and not confuse things. If you’re a senior, you’re a senior. If you’re a junior, you’re a junior—even if you can score better than most of the seniors.

Let’s discuss those gymnasts first, the ones in contention to win the juniors and who would make the senior national team if old enough.

The Favorites

We have a pretty amorphous and open junior field in the US this year because so many of the very best juniors aged out of the system after 2017, like Malabuyo, Perea, O’Keefe, Kenlin, and Dunne. A bit of a power vacuum was left in their absence, but in the last few months, we’ve seen a solid four rise up to establish themselves as the new junior cabal, and they’ll be expected to fight it out for the title here.

Coming in with the highest scoring potential of the entire bunch is Sunisa Lee. With the D-score advantage that Lee possesses—performing 6+ difficulty on bars and beam—her performance typically dictates how these junior competitions play out. If she hits those big routines, the others will not have the difficulty to catch her, even if they perform perfectly.

Hitting, however, is the big question. Lee can be susceptible to a fall that allows the lower-D competition to pass her, and mistakes on both bars and beam at Pac Rims took her down to 4th in the all-around standings.

That could be where someone like Kayla DiCello comes in. Her D scores alone will likely see her give up more than a point to Lee (maybe closer to 1.5 depending on how things play out), but going 4-for-4 at American Classic allowed DiCello to dominate the field with a 55.400, a score not too far off the pace of what Lee should earn for a hit meet. DiCello showed precise work and execution upon her elite debut last season, and in the past year she has upped her D scores from the 5.0 territory to the 5.3-5.5 territory, which allows her to stay right with the top scorers.

Life changes quickly in the junior ranks. Last year at Junior Classic, DiCello placed 24th, ahead of Jordan Bowers in 32nd, and now they’re two of the most convincing favorites for the title in 2018.

Bowers won the all-around at both Pac Rims and Pan Ams this year (outscoring DiCello and Lee at Pac Rims, and outscoring Leanne Wong and Tori Tatum at Pan Ams) which speaks to her solidity and equal strength across the four events. Bowers does not rely on any one or two apparatus scores to pick up her all-around total, which means she is better able to absorb any mistakes that might crop up because she can make up those tenths on any of the other three events. Continue reading US Classic Preview – Juniors


2018 US Classic Roster Notes

Attention peasants! The US Classic is a mere 12 days away, and because everything is going super great, USAG used this definitely-not-down-to-the-wire opportunity to announce, “What up, turkey butts. Check it, we still have a number of sponsors. That number is one.”

Yes, everything is solved now because the CoverSecret US Classic will henceforth be known as the GK US Classic. GK released an official statement on the sponsorship agreement, saying, “Ugh, I mean I guess. We’re a leo company, so…”

In addition to revealing the new title sponsorship of the GK US RSTLNE Classic, USAG announced the list of competitors, a fairly hearty group, one that is overall Simone. With some Simone. I’m impressed by how Simone.

What’s more, Simone has suddenly decided to do the all-around instead of just bars and beam like she was originally planning because why not. Everyone else is like, “Can’t we just have ONE DAY?”

There are, however, four notable absences in the senior division this year: Maile O’Keefe, Marz Frazier, Trinity Thomas, and Gabby Perea, all of whom are already qualified to nationals and will still be able to compete the all-around there if they so choose. Thomas says she’s still planning to compete elite in 2018 but has also already started Florida-ing, so we’ll see. Ashton Locklear is injured and out for the year.

Seniors who have not already qualified to nationals will have to reach 52.000 all-around at this meet (or 39.750 on 3 events, or 27.000 on 2 events) to advance. Otherwise, they are cut loose at this point. Those who still need their qualifying scores are noted below. Continue reading 2018 US Classic Roster Notes

American Classic Preview

For 2018, USA Gymnastics has added a third “you can watch this like a real sport” competition into its summer schedule, the previously semi-secret and always unhelpfully named American Classic.

“No one will get this confused with the U.S. Classic!” said USAG, full of wisdom.

Like the U.S. Classic at the end of July, the American Classic is first and foremost an opportunity for gymnasts to achieve the qualifying score necessary to advance to the national championship. The American Classic is therefore a showcase of prudent gymnasts, those who would like two tries to get that AA total rather than one.

But this year, rather than taking place at Martha’s House, the meet is being held at Greg’s House, which seats a cool 15,000+. Meanwhile, Martha’s House seats 4 llamas and a scream. So this is better.

Junior elites compete on July 7th at 11:00am MT, with senior elites at 4:00pm MT. USAG will stream on YouTube. Let’s discuss the major topics.

(Programming note: I will not be able to live blog the American Classic.)


Roster: Shania Adams, Sloane Blakely, Jade Carey, Audrey Davis, Kara Eaker, Jaylene Gilstrap, Olivia Hollingsworth, Madeleine Johnston, Shilese Jones, Emily Lee, Isabel Mabanta, Grace McCallum, Riley McCusker, Alyona Shchennikova. Deanne Soza, Madelyn Williams

Jade Carey all-arounder?
Carey has already qualified to nationals by virtue of being on the worlds team last year, so this meet is more about getting a competition under her belt since she has not appeared at a real meet yet in 2018.

Of note, Carey has been showing bars work on various instasnaps, leading to some anticipation that she might add bars to her repertoire this elite season. Carey was never tragic on bars in JO, but she did not nearly have elite composition and therefore chose to prioritize her main competition events when going elite for 2017. If nothing else, Carey is working toward being a real bars option in college. But like Sacramone finishing 4th AA at nationals in 2015, Carey would have the scores on the other events to get a legit AA total in elite even if her bars is like, “Hi, I’m an 11”

If she’s going for full vault difficulty right now, I’m eager to see where the Amanar is, since that’s the newer of her two vaults and was a work in progress last elite season. Continue reading American Classic Preview

Summer 2018 Schedule

A daily guide to your summer of gymnastics fandom. Check back as times are resolved and events added.

Wednesday, June 13
Junior Pan American Gymnastics Championships

9:30am ET/6:30am PT – Women’s Team/AA, Subdivision 1

12:45pm ET/9:45am PT – Women’s Team/AA, Subdivision 2

The US will be sending a squad of Leanne Wong, Jordan Bowers, JaFree Scott, and Tori Tatum that will be heavily favored to take the team title.

Thursday, June 14
Junior Pan American Gymnastics Championships

10:10am ET/7:10am PT – Men’s Team/AA, Subdivision 1

2:30pm ET/11:30am PT – Men’s Team/AA Subdivision 2

Guimaraes Challenge Cup

10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Qualification Day 1

The roster includes Isabela Onyshko, Taeja James, Maisie Methuen, Manrique Larduet, Ray Zapata, Giarnni Regini-Moran, Joe Fraser, and Yuri Van Gelder

Friday, June 15
Junior Pan American Gymnastics Championships

10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Event Finals
(Women’s VT, UB; Men’s FX, PH, SR)

3:10pm ET/12:10pm PT – Event Finals
(Women’s BB, FX; Men’s VT, PB, HB)

Guimaraes Challenge Cup

10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Qualification Day 2

Saturday, June 16
Guimaraes Challenge Cup

10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Event Finals Day 1

Sunday, June 17
Guimaraes Challenge Cup

10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Event Finals Day 2

Friday, June 22
Brazilian National Championship

11:30am ET/8:30am PT – Men’s and Women’s Day 1

Saturday, June 23
Mediterranean Games

9:00am ET/6:00am PT – Qualification Day 1

Spain, Italy, France, and Greece among others are expected to send teams. Italy is the defending team champion and Vanessa Ferrari the defending all-around champion.

Youth Olympics Qualifier – Europe

2:00am ET/11:00pm PT – Subdivision 1
6:00am ET/3:00am PT – Subdivision 2
9:30am ET/6:30am PT – Subdivision 3

Participants will include Elisa Iorio (ITA), Asia D’Amato (ITA), Ksenia Klimenko (RUS), Daria Belousova (RUS), Celia Serber (FRA), Carolann Heduit (FRA), Amelie Morgan (GBR), Phoebe Jakubczyk (GBR), Emilie Petz (GER), Iulia Berar (ROU), Ana-Maria Puiu (ROU), and Anastasia Bachynska (UKR)

German European Championships Trial

11:30am ET/8:30am PT – Senior & Junior competition

Brazilian National Championship

7:00am ET/4:00am PT – Men’s and Women’s Day 2

Continue reading Summer 2018 Schedule

Nationals Preview Part 4: Super Six

Super Six previews are weird to do, so here’s one.

At this point, we don’t know which teams will even be competing in Super Six, but we’ve all been watching this unfold for 80 million weeks and have a pretty solid sense of what’s going on.

Last season, we entered nationals with the expectation that Oklahoma would be the winner, LSU had the potential to be a fairly unsurprising upset champion, and Florida could challenge if things got weird. Ultimately, that’s what we ended up seeing. LSU made things a little more interesting than expected after the semifinal, but in the end, things went as regular season performance predicted.

This year, the scenario is not wholly different, with the only major change being that UCLA has become noticeably better than it was last year and should be included in this top-tier, medal-finish conversation (if medals were a thing here). The other differences are of small degree: Oklahoma has separated itself from the pack a little more this season, and Florida has fallen behind Utah with its inconsistent regular-season performances, meaning that a true title challenge from Florida would be more of a surprise than it would have been last year.

But besides going down the rankings and ticking off the favorites in order, it can be helpful to go through previous championship scoring standards to see which teams have proven the ability to meet those standards during this current season.

Winning scores
2017 – Oklahoma – 198.3875
2016 – Oklahoma – 197.675
2015 – Florida – 197.850
2014 – Florida/Oklahoma – 198.175
2013 – Florida – 197.575
2012 – Alabama – 197.850
2011 – Alabama – 197.650
2010 – UCLA – 197.725

The low in here is that 197.575 from when Florida counted a fall and still won, so that’s not too representative. The way scores have been going this year—as compared to the early 2010s—expect a winning total closer to the high-water mark here rather than the low. That’s the first standard to look at. Can you realistically score 197.8+? The winning score is likely to be in that zone. Sure, we could have another 2016 on our hands—not an insane thing to think—but season scoring evidence hasn’t really been pointing that direction. Continue reading Nationals Preview Part 4: Super Six

Nationals Preview Part 3: The Individuals

Welcome to Afterthought City.

The individual titles for the all-around and apparatuses are awarded on Semifinal Friday, which ensures that everyone will kind of forget they exist while focusing on team qualification standings—and then three minutes later, everyone turns to everyone else and says, “Oh yeah, wait, who won vault?” It’s a national tradition.

This year, we’re primarily rooting for having fewer than six people tie for the bars title. And by fewer, I mean more. The real goal of the event titles is to have so many people tie for a single spot on the podium that they have to Jenga it, and hilarity ensues. I really feel like floor is going to come through for us this time around.

But first…


The favorite
Maggie Nichols – Oklahoma
RQS: 39.830
High: 39.900
Ranking: 1

For the second straight year, Nichols enters nationals as the favorite for the title and clear #1 in the country, which she accomplished this season with a record-breaking 39.830 RQS, eclipsing Jeanette Antolin’s total of 39.795 from 2004.

Only 16 gymnasts in NCAA history have scored over 39.825 in the all-around on even a single occasion, and Nichols’ RQS is higher than that. If Nichols hits, she is a heavy favorite—though not an exclusive favorite—for the all-around title.

It was a fall on beam in the semifinals that dropped Nichols out of contention last season, but Alex McMurtry ultimately went on to score so high in the second semifinal that the fall from Nichols didn’t matter. McMurtry would have won regardless. (I think I’ve heard/maybe said before that the fall cost Nichols the all-around title, which is not correct.) The only thing the Nichols fall took away was any controversy over who the rightful winner was.  Continue reading Nationals Preview Part 3: The Individuals

National Semifinal #2: The Preview

April 20, 6:00 CT

Teams (starting event)
[1] Oklahoma (beam)
[4] Utah (vault)
[5] Florida (bars)
[8] Washington (floor)
[9] Cal (bye before floor)
[12] Kentucky (bye before bars)

Morgan Lane, North Carolina – AA (rotating w/ Oklahoma)
Elizabeth Price, Stanford – AA (rotating w/ Utah)
Cami Drouin-Allaire, George Washington – AA (rotating w/ Florida)
Shani Remme, Boise State – AA (rotating w/ Washington)
Rae Balthazor, Illinois – AA (rotating w/ Cal)
Lexy Ramler, Minnesota – AA (rotating w/ Kentucky)
Denelle Pedrick, Central Michigan – FX (rotating w/ Oklahoma)
Shannon Hortman-Evans, BYU – UB (rotating w/ Utah)
Meaghan Sievers, Iowa State – VT (rotating w/ Cal)

As in the first semifinal, the second semifinal has a clear, built-in delineation between two sets of three teams. We have the ranking favorites, former champions, and famous programs in Oklahoma, Utah, and Florida, and then we have the upstart challengers in Washington, Cal, and Kentucky.

Before this year, the three bottom-ranked teams in this semifinal had reached NCAA/AIAW nationals a combined ten times (Washington eight times, Cal twice), and only twice in the current millennium (once each for Washington and Cal). As for the top three teams combined…well counting that took too long and I got bored.

Anyway, it’s around 100. So…it’s more.

Washington, Cal, and Kentucky are still newbies to this level of competition, each one looking for some way to make the Oklahoma jump—an upset in the semifinals to get into Super Six is exactly how you start to make that jump. The actual scores from this year are of course more relevant than the history of the programs, but the scores tell the same story. A 197.0 would be a fantastic performance in the semifinal for Washington, Cal, Kentucky and would constitute a miss for Oklahoma, Utah, or Florida, which is why they’ll enter as the favorites.

How the upset happens

Washington under-performed at regionals and ended up being fortunate in its draw that a 196.275 advanced out of Penn State since that score would have been eliminated from several other regional competitions. The scores from various regionals are not necessarily directly comparable—all of Washington’s vault scores were stuck in the 9.7s when some would have been 9.8s at drunker meets, those early beam scores looked disproportionately low—but it does serve as a warning sign that a repeat of that regionals performance will not come close advancing from this semifinal and would allow the top teams to have major mistakes and still qualify—or at least outscore Washington. Continue reading National Semifinal #2: The Preview